The boss of the powerful carpenters union secretly collected an extra $150,000-a-year salary plus a $25,000 car allowance from a special fund intended to promote the construction industry.
The extra pay and perks, combined with Frederick Devine's hefty $210,000 base pay as president of the District Council of Carpenters of New York, bring his total take to a whopping $385,000.
Devine began cashing in the additional check and allowance last year, but he never told 25,000 union members who are footing the bill.
The salaries make him one of the nation's highest-paid union officials. In contrast, national Teamsters leader Ron Carey is paid $150,000 to run the 1.4 million-member union, and AFL-CIO chief Lane Kirkland gets $190,000.
Carpenters earn an average of $45,000 a year, officials said. But up to 40% of them are jobless.
Devine is one of the state's most influential labor leaders and a key player in revamping the operation of the Javits Convention Center, where state officials are seeking to oust mob-tied workers many of them carpenters union members.
Devine faces a four-way race next month in the union's first democratic vote, a result of a consent decree he signed last year settling racketeering charges that he and others colluded with the mob.
Devine refused to comment on his double salary, but an aide, who would only speak anonymously, defended the sum as "perfectly justified."
"He works tirelessly for that money," said the aide.
Former Manhattan Federal Judge Kenneth Conboy, who is serving as the union's court-appointed investigations officer, declined comment.
Devine's extra paycheck kicked in July 1, 1994 just as the consent decree forced him and other district council officials to stop collecting multiple salaries. In Devine's case, he had to give up a separate $150,000 salary as head of the Dockbuilders, a carpenters union local.
To replace his Dockbuilders pay, Devine tapped into a special fund created by him in 1993 as part of the union's collective bargaining agreement with contractors.
Funded with a 15 cent-per-hour contribution from working carpenters, the Labor-Management Cooperation Trust Fund was supposed to spend money on union education projects and job development.
Stephen Huff, an attorney for the fund, said Devine is a fund trustee and its paid administrator. Huff said Devine did not participate in a vote naming him the paid administrator last year.
Although an estimated $3.6 million has gone into the fund, no reports have been filed with members or government agencies.
Huff said the fund is "in full compliance with applicable laws" but declined to release specific fund figures.
In addition to Devine's salary, the fund has paid for a huge highway billboard campaign, TV ads and expense-paid trips to Florida for union officials aligned with Devine.
"It is a self-serving fund for the promotion of Fred Devine, who intentionally kept it a secret," said John Abbatemarco, first vice president of the district council, who is running against Devine.
Another Devine challenger, Patrick Harvey, head of the largest carpenters local, filed an electoral protest against the fund and Devine's salary.